Brexit Chicken Supply Crisis

Well who’d have thought it, the party that brought us Brexit means Brexit couldn’t foresee supply chain problems after we left without a decent trade deal in place, the giveaway should be that they’ve been trying to tear up their ‘oven ready’ Brexit deal almost since they got it signed off and as a consequence we’re now struggling to even get an oven ready chicken! They never got Brexit done, they’ve just dragged the pain of it out, pulled the wool over our eyes and made it even worse.

Boris Johnson, a man who has rarely been troubled by honesty and all too often has been allowed to get away with that, has been somewhat fortunate in that the COVID crisis has for the most part masked the fallout from his ‘oven ready’ Brexit deal, an agreement he’s been trying to wriggle out of almost since it was signed. Whether he ever even read the thing before he signed it is highly questionable, but when you consider the consequences of his ambition, his idiocy or a combination of the two and it’s little wonder why, when you visit the supermarket and see the vast array of empty shelves there to greet you, that the government line is to blame something else, namely COVID. Where are the goods? Why can’t I buy what I need? and the answer has been things like shortages of staff in the warehouse due to COVID, lorry drivers down with COVID and because COVID has become so normalised, life is back to normal and we’re just living with it now – except the ones dying from it obviously but who thinks about them anymore, as the mass media avoid talking about that – and so we just accept it’s a temporary hitch and move on.

Well it isn’t a temporary hitch, it isn’t related to COVID and this is becoming more obvious to more people by the day as we look at pictures of supermarkets in Europe on social media, Europe with its share of COVID to deal with as well and what do we see? Well stocked shelves full of fresh produce! Why can they get food and we can’t? The answer is a Brexit inflicted supply chain disaster that actually has a greater knock-on effect and none of it positive.

Sure, some of it might be people off sick with COVID, but that’s a short term issue, the long term issue caused by Brexit is the lack of staff to start with. Many weren’t British nationals and they’ve left or are about to leave, leaving massive holes in the workforce, holes in industries that require a level of skill, that not anyone can do. We’re short on lorry drivers to deliver goods. If our shops need supplying, they need stuff delivered to them and that has been hit hard.

It’s not just been a case of non British drivers not staying either, many British people have left the job too, because Brexit has disincentivised them from staying. Many used to earn decent money doing runs to the continent when as part of the EU we could collect goods and come back without fuss. Now it’s 2 or 3 days of red tape, fresh produce going off as they’re sat there and whilst they’re sat there waiting to get back they aren’t getting paid. They lose money sitting there not trucking. That hurts the drivers in the pocket and what produce they bring back? More of it will have perished by the time it gets here, driving up demand and as a result prices.

This crisis is a two-way street actually as well, as our meat and fish exports have dropped some 83% and there’s nothing worse than spoiling fish, so this is directly hitting our economy as well. And if you don’t believe me over any of this? How much has your shopping bill gone up lately?

Think about how this might hurt the poorest in the country right now if you’re feeling the pinch. They’re due to lose £20 a week, a Universal Credit uplift the most ill and disabled still on legacy benefits never got to begin with, combined with energy bills set to soar again and with this supply and demand crisis only worsening, the price of meat and fish is up 23%, fresh fruit and veg up 14% and the price of poultry up a staggering 41% and it’s the poultry industry I’ll turn to next.

We raise a lot of poultry in this country, but the industry is in crisis because they’ve lost so many workers as well. Again, most came from abroad because working with chickens or turkeys is a poorly paid job, but again a skilled one; its another example of skilled work not being paid as such, from the husbandry to the butchery, the people working there operate quickly and efficiently and that takes time to train and get the hang of, but when the market demands ever cheaper meat, the wages do not keep up with UK cost of living, therefore people here simply cannot afford to take this work on, or learn how to do it. The cost of living in this country has been a massive problem gone ignored by business-centric successive governments for decades. It left the country with a need for cheap foreign labour and here its biting us on the arse, particularly as the cost of living is rising, goods and utilities costing us more and wages and benefits here are still not rising to match. Look, food banks as an example are an absolute consequence of a system failing its people and the queues to these places are getting longer and longer and the number of people able to pop a few items in the food bank bin will get fewer and fewer as costs rise, as this issue of income versus cost of living worsens, plus availability of goods as well, continues to widen.

The British Poultry Industry has spoken out today, flatly blaming Brexit for the staffing issues its industry faces and demanding the government fast-track visas for people to come here and do the jobs needed, those possessing the skills needed. How is this being back in control? How is this freedom oh Brexit voters? Surely we should be employing people here to do this, surely these poultry farmers and processors should be training up Brits? The reason nobody will is that we all want cheap chicken and therefore the poultry industry cannot pay enough for a British worker to live on. Its hard work, skilled work but our government response would be to anyone not earning enough, would be to work harder or take another job – there’s no time to around this kind of work and it is in itself enough work for anyone for one day. A fair days pay for a fair days work is what we all should be demanding, whatever happened to that? It went out of the window in the 70’s. Wages have failed to keep up with cost of living for decades. We can’t afford to buy a home anymore, can’t afford to rent a home it seems these days, now its becoming increasingly harder to put food on the table, save for a pension you’ll have to work even longer for to earn and with the poultry industry struggling to meet demand, case in point today Nando’s closing 45 outlets and KFC reducing their menu options, let alone the state of play on your supermarket shelves! You might not even be able to get a turkey for Christmas because although the birds are there, the processing and delivery infrastructures are not! Whilst Brexit has brought into sharp, chicken-flavoured focus the cost of living crisis – I’m not going to say anybody was right or wrong depending on how they voted, that time is past – but the least you should expect is for your government to know what they were doing and its bloody obvious by now that they were all making it up as they went along. Their mishandling of Brexit, their incompetence and cluelessness, their detachment from ordinary lives, has accelerated the cost of living crisis and there needs to be a fundamental shift to address it as more and more people find themselves unable to afford even the basics, like a roast chicken dinner.

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